Press Release Interview Lobke Broos about ROOF-A

Interview with Lobke Broos about the new cultural venture ROOF-A in Rotterdam: “Art adds value. There’s so much to be gained by connecting artists, collectors, patrons, companies and museums.”

A new cultural initiative will soon open its doors to provide a cultural boost for Rotterdam’s Scheepvaartkwartier – and with it, the entire city. With the capital A of Art, ROOF-A will be an international meeting place: a safe space, crossroads and departure point for artists and photographers, collectors, the public, and anyone else who’s curious about a world full of imagination. ROOF-A provides space for dreams and ideas, for museum exhibitions and cultural encounters, but also for entrepreneurship and stimulating lively networks between the arts and the business world.

A welcoming, open spirit:
ROOF-A Gallery & ROOF-A Development
Lobke Broos is the face of ROOF-A, and she has also created the concept. With a charming smile and eyes sparkling with adventure, she says: “ROOF-A opens doors, offers inspiration, and invites discovery. The location at Westplein 9 in Rotterdam is itself an exciting place to explore. The building is located around the corner from the Veerhaven harbour with its terraces and Het Park, in an attractive green environment with a view of the ships.

At the same time, this is a neighbourhood where there’s little art to be found, so ROOF-A really adds value. The building is a gem from the 1960s, with lots of light and steel window frames. The building used to house the social club of the Nedlloyd shipping company. It has an open, welcoming atmosphere – perhaps also thanks to its history as a meeting place. This inviting energy has been the guiding principle in the renovation of the building. ROOF-A will have a distinct, but not static character. It’ll be a dynamic cultural venture.”

To synthesise her ideas in one image, she adds: “I like to think of it as a bird soaring on thermals. It just fits my way of working: moving along with time and space, always looking for new possibilities. The concept has two wings: ROOF-A Gallery and ROOF-A Development. We provide a platform for the art itself, with adventurous exhibitions, but we also answer the current need for connection. How can artists, companies, galleries, patrons, and museums strengthen their social interaction? That’s our main motivation: connecting people and culture by opening doors between these fields, and by collaborating with them. Connection is what we’re all about.”

ROOF-A Development focuses on artistic projects such as art commissions, on a cultural programme in the ROOF-A building for companies, and on strategic advice on development and relationship management for cultural institutions. “In several ways, we’ve noticed a need for a concept like ROOF-A,” says Lobke Broos. “After the lockdown, everyone is yearning for cultural connection – away from our screens and all the digital connections. That’s why this time after the pandemic is perfect for new initiatives.”

Well-known and new talent
Visually appealing, diverse and challenging
With three solo exhibitions and three previews, ROOF-A Gallery will open its international programme in early November 2021. Together with both well-known and up-and-coming artists, Broos gives shape to a multidisciplinary policy. “Visually attractive, diverse, and challenging. Our concept is guided by crossovers.” The first three solo exhibitions will be dedicated to Gijs Assmann, Tania Franco Klein, and Marjan Teeuwen. Additionally, previews of Kalliopi Lemos, Marc Mulders and Diana Scherer will be launched.

The organisation also has plans to collaborate with Atelier van Lieshout, the artistic workshop and cultural enterprise with which Joep van Lieshout has been pioneering for decades in the M4H harbour area on the edge of Rotterdam. Lobke Broos has her eye on one of his sculptures, to be placed on the roof of ROOF-A. “As a landmark and a symbol of the artistic connection across the districts of Rotterdam.”

As she looks forward to the opening of ROOF-A at the start of November, Lobke Broos proudly talks about the artists with whom she’s working. Tania Franco Klein (1990), an artist from Mexico, will be making her Dutch debut and staging her first extensive solo show in Europe. She studied architecture in Mexico City and photography in London. At ROOF-A, she will be installing both new work and a selection from her young oeuvre, acting as artist-curator.

Tailored to the space in question, she combines photographic work with wall prints, TV monitors, and framed shots. “She will create cinematic settings in which the visitor gets closer to the protagonist,” says Lobke Broos. “Often, this is an alter ego of Tania herself as a young woman, struggling with false securities, fuelled by the dynamics of a media-driven world and our obsession with eternal youth. The work plays with beauty and moods. It’s painfully beautiful and alienating.” Broos met Tania Franco Klein in Santa Monica (CA), thanks to the filmmaker, director and photography collector Jan de Bont. ROOF-A was able to make agreements with the artist and the American gallery ROSEGALLERY for an international exchange. “In this way, we will be able to offer one of our Dutch artists a platform in the US as well.”

Artists provide reflections of the world.
Their work is a gift, but it’s also a profession.
In everything, ROOF-A strives to make boundaries more flexible. “This applies to collaborations with other galleries, commissions for artists that we’re setting up with individuals or companies, and our cutting-edge photography, visual art, fashion and design programme,” says Lobke Broos. “ROOF-A will be like a museum, an inspiring place for work to be presented – a space that brings joy as it enriches the spirit. Contemporary artists offer reflections of the world: through wit or a critical look, with panoramas or a closer look at our lives.

Our exhibitions will always be on show for three months, and we won’t change them more than three times a year. This supports the museum quality we want to drive and maintain, and it gives us time to fully activate our network. This is also necessary, because art is more than just a gift. At the end of the day, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Everyone who works in art has a profession, and that has a commercial side. I don’t believe in working ‘for free’, especially in the art world, where everyone practices their speciality with so much passion that the value of knowledge and hours is easily forgotten. Fair practice is essential. As a cultural venture, you have a social responsibility as well as a commercial one. Both reinforce each other based on content and quality.”

In addition to Tania Franco Klein, artists Gijs Assmann and Marjan Teeuwen will be kicking off with a solo exhibition at ROOF-A as well. Assmann will exhibit collages and ceramic sculptures, often glossily glazed. He creates seductive still lifes with everyday objects, such as a high-heeled shoe, an open book, or a ship in a washbasin. The unexpected combinations play with memories and desires. They have a concentrated poetic power, as intriguing as a message in a bottle.

On the floor above, Marjan Teeuwen will present her photographic works on the eternal cycle of demolition and construction. In her work, architecture takes on a psychological dimension as well as a social and political one. Teeuwen has worked in Russia, the Gaza Strip, Amsterdam, and Rotterdam, where she transformed demolished buildings into sculptures: careful stacks of rubble stones, floorboards, window frames, doorposts, and dust. She turns the spirit of the building inside out. Her photographs of these installations are clear, almost abstract compositions, always depicting a fine balance between chaos and order.

Sow before you reap
A mix of coaching, investing and presenting
“We want to offer a place where we connect, question, show, and challenge,” says Lobke Broos. “In combination with these solo shows featuring different media, we provide a glimpse of future exhibitions and set up a trajectory for young talent and experimentation. Our Young Talent Programme is what characterises and unites ROOF-A Gallery and ROOF-A Development. It’s an annual collaboration, which is set up either with a company and/or with a private individual. It’s a mix of coaching, investing, and presenting. In collaboration with the AkzoNobel Art Foundation, we’re currently making plans for an artistic collaboration starting in early 2022.”

“You may characterise this programme as a process of sowing and harvesting,” she explains. “This certainly applies to the Young Talent Programme, but it actually counts for everything at ROOF-A. Sometimes, almost literally! Diana Scherer is one of the three artists whose future solo work we’ll be presenting at the opening. She creates and innovates with root systems of plants. This forms tissues that are beautiful in themselves as lace-like works of art, but with which she also investigates whether she can turn them into fashion – essentially, whether she can make a garment grow under the ground. It’s such a joy to visit her studio and admire all the greenery growing there. Diana can really grow her work, and few artists can say the same.”

All facets of Scherer’s work will be highlighted in a solo exhibition in the spring of 2022. This will be combined with a solo show by the painter Marc Mulders. He also depicts the process of sowing and harvesting in his paintings. With soft, shimmering colours and lively brushstrokes, he paints fields of flowers at dawn and dusk. The third preview at ROOF-A, alongside those by Scherer and Mulders, consists of collages and organic sculptures by Kalliopi Lemos (Greece, 1951). Lemos recently made a name for herself in the Netherlands with The Plait: the sculpture that rises as a beacon of female strength on the Westersingel, near Rotterdam Central Station. ROOF-A is preparing to meet this London-based artist and organise a solo exhibition in late 2022.

After 20 years of experience, it’s clear:
cultural innovation is contagious
Innovation and seduction is what excites Lobke Broos, but she also observes that the public, collectors, galleries, museums, and companies have a real need for development. Her conviction has grown and strengthened over time. With ROOF-A, she combines 20 years of experience in the public art sector. After studying communication and art history, she specialised as a marketing expert at the Stedelijk Museum Schiedam. She then went to work for the Nederlands Fotomuseum in Rotterdam, where she set up and expanded the development department while continuing to develop professionally through additional studies at home and abroad. Her goal was to connect companies and collectors to the museum through innovative partnerships and memberships. “Always on the basis of content,” she says. “You achieve the most when you start from your specific knowledge, strength, and qualities.”

An example? “At the Nederlands Fotomuseum, it is necessary to digitise analogue material to preserve this heritage for the future. The interesting question is whether a company can facilitate this technical catch-up. This led to a partnership with Canon. The museum works with materials from this brand, while the company’s reputation for technical quality and innovation is confirmed through the same collaboration. From specific themes or subject areas linked to the collection, to educational programmes and digitisation, we’ve developed various partnerships, such as with NN Group, Nationale Nederlanden, Somfy, De Bijenkorf, and APM Terminals. It’s all about give-and-take rather than meaningless sponsorship. It may sound logical, but such links are recent and require policies to be fine-tuned. It’s a balancing act between social and business responsibilities, with content as the key word for connection. In conducting this lobby shoulder to shoulder with the artists and other partners, I sometimes feel like a warrior in the vanguard. In this profession, we’ll always be people on a mission.”

Strengthening each other’s mission and vision with the adventurous, social DNA of art
When she left the Nederlands Fotomuseum in early 2021 and ROOF-A was first announced, former mayor Bram Peper sent Lobke Broos an e-mail, which she has kept as a token of success. “I admire your move into the private sector and that you’ve chosen to become an entrepreneur in these difficult times,” writes Peper. “By doing so, you’re showing that this city’s DNA is an integral part of who you are.”

For the realisation of ROOF-A, Lobke Broos works together with co-initiator Henk Roskamp, who also acts as an ambassador for the cultural venture. He works in the shipping industry and is the former director of the RVB Company. In addition, he is a photography enthusiast and member of the Fotomuseum Collectors Council of the Nederlands Fotomuseum. He owns the building at Westplein 9 and was looking for a cultural destination for it, while Lobke Broos was looking for the right space to suit her concept. “In three to five years’ time,” she says, “ROOF-A will be a healthy, independent venture. Based on my knowledge, experience, and network, that’s a realistic prospect. It’s all thanks to both of our wings: ROOF-A Gallery and ROOF-A Development.

The gallery will open its doors this autumn, but the start of ROOF-A Development has already begun in cooperation with institutions like Museum Alkmaar and other medium-sized museums, and with companies and individuals to whom we provide strategic advice. Our motto is always: we’re not here to get something, we’re here to make something happen!  We reinforce each other’s mission and vision through the artistic and social value of art.”

Interview door: Wilma Sütö